Uranium Mining

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Uranium mining and its effects on the environment is a major concern today. Although uranium can be helpful, there are risks that have a negative impact on the health of humans, animals; as well as effects on air, soil and water. Uranium is a hard, dense, malleable, silver-white, radioactive metal which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy. Uranium is a naturally occurring element found in low levels within rock, soil, air and water. It is the highest numbered element to be found naturally in significant quantities on earth and is always found combined with other elements. Uranium can also be found in plants because plants absorb the uranium that is found in soil.

There are many sources and uses of uranium. During mining of uranium ore and its processing, some releases of uranium occur. Depleted uranium is useful because of its very high density. Depleted uranium is used in aircrafts, radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy and radiography equipment and containers used to transport radioactive materials. Certain studies of depleted uranium aerosol exposure propose that uranium combustion product particles, which can be found in military ammunition, can be found and inhaled in the air, but will quickly settle out of the air, not affecting populations more than a few kilometers from target areas. Used uranium oxide fuel is insoluble in water, which is likely to release uranium when in contact with water, thus creating nuclear waste. These sources of uranium can be harmful to the environment as well as cause health problems to both humans as well as animals.

A person can be exposed to uranium by inhaling dust in the air or by ingesting contaminated water and food. The amount of uranium in the air is usually small; however, people who work in factories that process phosphate fertilizers, live near government facilities that made or tested nuclear weapons live or work near a nuclear power plant, or live or work at facilities that...
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